Today was the second time I had a chance to interact with the attendees of the 2010 Rookie Premiere, and though it wasnt as epic as Friday night, today was still a very fun time. I arrived at Santa Monica High School around 11:45 and made my way over to the event. Panini was set up there with a booth next to the merch tent from NFLPA, as well as a DJ from 102.7 KIIS FM. The music from the field was already blaring, so I couldnt really see the point of an extra place for music, but whatever. They also had Coffee Bean stuff there for sale, but they looked bored without anyone coming to buy.
Panini handed out packs of 2009 Prestige, which came in very handy in the later parts of the event. They were also handing out mammoth posters that featured all the rookie cards from 2010 Prestige, though I was kind of disappointed they didnt have current packs to open for the rookies at the event.
There were a ton of fans lining the entry way looking to get autographs, and as the event participants rolled in, they signed for just about everyone. The people I recognized immediately were Brandon Routh, who played Superman in the latest film, Bill Bellamy of MTV fame, and one of the Sklar brothers who had a show on ESPN Classic as well as some well known stand up comedy stuff.
I walked around a little before making my way up to Media/VIP check in, but there really wasnt much happening on the actual grounds of the event until things got going. NFLPA had set up huge video screens and decorated everything to the nines, so that was cool too. As I walked into the tent where all the event personnel were hanging out, I could see that once again, the NFLPA didnt mistreat its people.
Just like on Friday, the spread was impressive, this time featuring sandwiches from a great local deli, sweets from a local restaurant, salads and steak sandwiches from Morton’s steakhouse, among other stuff. No one was really there when the event started, so I grabbed some food and waited to see if any of the card people were going to come. Much to my dismay, none of them were able to make it to the event, except for a few people I had met on Friday night from Upper Deck. I later found out that some of them had some very unfortunate circumstances at the hotel involving cars and towing. It was really too bad they couldnt be there.
A few of the rookies that were still in town showed up around 12:30 in a big group, and I used the opportunity to fill out my collection of autographs from the guys I didnt have. The first person I talked to was Eric Decker, a Broncos wide receiver who walked in wearing his new jersey. He was an alum of the University of Minnesota, and a VERY nice guy, so we chatted about our common heritage and Minnesota connection. He was happy to sign a card for me, which was great, considering how few people were actually there.
CJ Spiller walked in next, with Dexter McCluster, Damian Williams, and Demaryius Thomas in tow. Ben Tate, Golden Tate, and Toby Gerhart walked in next, followed by Mardy Gilyard and Arrelious Benn. I didnt have either of the Tates, and both were happy to sign for me. Everyone who was there started taking pictures with them, and reporters from the school newspaper interviewed a few of them. That would have been an awesome experience to have as a high schooler, thats for sure.
I noticed Eric Dickerson sitting at a table waiting for his game to start, so I walked over and chatted to him about life after football. He lives very close to me in the valley here in LA, and was a very nice guy all around. I didnt realize how cool his signature looked until he was finished signing, and it was one that I was glad to have.
TJ Houshmanzadeh was also there, and here is where it was handy to have a never ending supply of Panini cards for him to sign. Everyone there had his 2009 Prestige card and he signed about 4 of them before I got a chance. He was also a class act, but laughed when his card featured him as a Bengal.
I had CJ Spiller sign a football I brought with me, and he was much more friendly about it than on Friday night. he gave me a full sig with a personalization, and I could not be happier about it. Maurice Jones Drew was also milling about, but he was extremely busy filming stuff for the NFL network. Lucky I got him previously, because I didnt see an opportunity this time around.
Because I was wearing my Vikings shirt, Toby Gerhart came up and said “Go Vikes!” before getting in line to get some lunch. I got in line behind him, and asked him how yesterday went. He said he had a blast, and it was really cool to see all his cards that were being made. He loved the first opportunity to get dressed in full garb, and said he was glad he got to attend. He was wearing a Topps hat, something I didnt expect.
All in all, this weekend was a tremendous experience, and I am glad I got to be a part of it before I left Los Angeles for good. This rookie class, with few exceptions, were a bunch of amazing guys, and I hope that somewhere in the ranks there is a few NFL Superstars in the making. Because of my interactions with them, I have acquired a few new targets for next year, and thankfully there are going to be some awesome cards. Upper Deck, Panini, and Topps did a great job putting this event together, as always, and hopefully in the future I can make it back for another one.